Balenciaga supports Ukraine at Paris Fashion Week

Balenciaga backed Ukraine on Sunday at Paris Fashion Week as Russia continues to attack the country.

It was the first personal fashion show for the house since the beginning of the pandemic, and all eyes were on the creative director Demno (he rejected the surname Gvasalia) to see what one of the strongest voices in fashion will give next.

The designer’s favorite color is black, because he already needs to explore the darker side of life. In his last physical show in 2020, models walked the flooded runway to highlight the threat of climate change, while his pandemic shows included armor-clad avatars in a custom-made video game.

For this outing, Demna once again remained close to the topic of climate change and the terrible consequences it will cause. This time, the catwalk was covered in snow, and the howling wind blew into the air.

The finale of the Balenciaga autumn / winter 2022 fashion show was a dress in the color of the Ukrainian flag.  Photo: Balenciaga

That, in itself, would be enough to attract attention, but the sets were completed long before Russia invaded Ukraine, so Demna could not have known that it would feel so relevant. Suddenly, the meaning of the show changed to something more personal.

Demna and his family were forced to flee their homeland, Abkhazia, due to clashes between Georgian government forces, Abkhaz separatist forces, Russian government armed forces and North Caucasian militants. Then they moved to Ukraine, settled in Odessa, a city that is now endangered.

Dresses, coats, and even capes fluttered in the wind as part of the Balenciaga Fall Winter 2022 collection in Paris.  Photo: Balenciaga

Suddenly, violent weather on the catwalk became a comment on the plight of Ukrainians who were forced to leave their homes, as models, wrapped mostly in coats (except for a few men who wore little but towels), now drew attention to the country’s hardships.

As a sign of solidarity with their adoptive home, a T-shirt in the yellow-blue color of the Ukrainian flag was placed on each chair, along with Demne’s statement.

In addition, the show began with the sound of Demne reading the work of prominent Ukrainian poet Alexander Oles. The reading was intentionally left in Ukrainian, with no translation offered.

As for the clothes, which were almost difficult to see through the snowstorms, many were in black, and the models were carrying huge bags with laces, as if they were filled with expensive things in a hurry. Others wore something that looked like several plastic bags.

The clothes were disheveled, with tops sliding off the shoulders, lavish prints, medium-length dresses, and long coats spreading in the wind. Looks inspired by practical clothing, such as oversized jackets and pants with multiple pockets, or jackets with a funnel collar, practical hoodies and jeans, were desperately needed. Some models were wrapped in shiny faux fur coats and heavy shoes, while others held scanty towels around them, as if rushing out of the house.

This created an uncomfortable view, because it brought about the pure unpredictability of war.

The Balenciaga Fall / Winter 2022 collection included this look, in the yellow color of the national flag.  Photo: Balenciaga

To close the show, Demna sent glances in the colors of the Ukrainian flag. The first was a yellow men’s jacket with a funnel-shaped neckline over matching trousers, while the second was a blue dress with a long bouquet that danced in the wind. Exposed to the world to see during Paris Fashion Week, the message was clear: Demna will not allow Russia to get away with this.

Updated: March 7, 2022 at 1:29 p.m.

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